This is such an irrational hobby, one that encourages people to always be unsatisfied. I say that, of course, as a Vivaldi owner. But there is plenty of audiophile press and paranoia to make one think that even the Vivaldi stack isn’t good enough. One always needs to ask oneself: “What am I doing?”
A little off topic but I too have a Bartok connected directly to the amp, a Progression stereo. My sole haunting question is whether it’d be worth adding the Progression pre. It’s a lot! What were your experiences comparing the two set ups?
From what you write I conclude you have not got a turntable…then save the money you would spend in the preamplifier and buy a Rossini or Vivaldi Dac + upsampler…but if it is about aesthetic, pre + amp it is always good looking…
Yes I should have stated that, I’m all digital. I finally gave up on cds. I agree the aesthetics of the pre would be cool. I’m very happy with my Bartók, I’m reluctant to audition the Rossini bc I know I’ll want it. I had never been into phones and got the HP amp and Stellias and that’s fantastic. All in all, the upgrade fo either the Dag pre or Rossini, clock, new HP amp, new cables, etc. is a lot. I just want to be happy for a while, I agree with the guy above saying how this hobby encourages irrationality.
Hi JGroat, good question, I took some time to compare the two setups and eventually decided to sell my Dag progression pre.
Bartok w/ and w/o Rossini Clock -->w/ or w/o Dag Progression Preamp --> Dag Momentum s250 --> Wilson Yvette / Transparent Power Reference Cables/Conditioner
(from memory/totally subjective and unscientific)
- Highly detailed, musical micro-detail retrieval
- S250 , even though it is an SS amp, has lustrous warmth while retaining fantastic precise transient translation, I was surprised I didnt feel a great need to utilize a preamp to round off/out the musical presentation
- Slightly better low and mid bass resolution
- Slightly broader/wider sound image
- Harder to gain stage (even at 2V I cannot listen at volumes greater than -16db)
- I no longer have XLR inputs to play electric violin into/practice DJ sets
- Image feels very clean, precise, correct without being clinical or non-musical
- gain staging is a breeze , progression preamp has a fantastic/clean volume control
- slightly more rounded out image, for some that may feel more musical, for me it was just a slightly different flavor of excellence
- those gorgeous green VU meters and copper accents across black casework sure were great audiophile jewelry
- I enjoyed occasionally running my live electric violin setup, synths or DJ setups into the preamp and jam out in our living room
Rationale & My Conclusion
- I initially thought I might add analog sources (turn table specifically, run the TV etc) into my main system, however after several years of roon use I have switched to a completely digital setup (Qobuz/Tidal via Roon, Auralic NAS for lcoally stored high res content).
- 95% of the 22K Progression preamp’s features were of no use to me,in the end do I really need a 22K volume control?
- If I did eventually decide to do volume control and gain staging in the analog domain I can find a more focused product to do just that , @Ermos and @PaleRider seem to do great with Townshend and Benchmark products costing 1/3-1/7th of the Dag
- I had a couple weeks to reverse course on the progression preamp, and have listened extensively to my system since - I havent missed the dag pre once, Bartok direct is stellar; as a bonus the ergonomics of the dcs remote volume knob are so much more satisfying than the steampunkish knobs of the Dag remote
- The bartok is a fantastic digital preamp - Ie in addition to roon via ethernet, I have digital outs from our cable box, appleTV and other digital sources connecting to it.
- My speakers and power amp are very resolving and quite sufficient for my modest living room, at this point for me its about maximizing the information at the source I can capture and transfer into the analog audio domain
- Sale of the progression pre provides funds to invest in upgrading my source, I already purchased & installed the Rossini clock and will likely add the Rossini shortly and will try @Ermos suggestion to utilize the HPA4 as a headphone amp until dcS come out with a Rossini+HA or standalone HA, I might even play around with it as an analog volume control
- I dont worry too much about digital obsolescence here, the vast majority of content I enjoy is not available in formats >192/24b and it all sounds stellar on the Bartok and will still sound this way in 20 years (except my ears will have lost of a few KHz of range)
- I recently introduced Barefoot’s MicroMain45 mastering stack in my home studio which is all I will ever need for music production/jamming
- Ultimately, as an (occasional part time) musician I want to get as close as I can to the original performance details, the Bartok has been a magical fit for me as it allows me to focus in on the micro details of a performance when I want to (ie the way Hilary Hahn seems to move on stage as she plays Bach’s Partitas and Sonatas, the breathing of the performer before the fortissimo entrance etc) or the exact mix down and production decisions made (ie Trentmollers panning and EQ decisions on The Last Resort), while retaining emotionally satisfying cohesion. I’d rather overinvest on getting more of that… . dCSs studio technology roots are obvious and I would probably have invested in ADCs for my studio by them if they still offered them
Hope this helps!
Based on this post I decided to run an experiment tonight. My integrated amp has an option to bypass the preamp and go straight to the amp, and use the Bartok for attenuation. And I think I prefer that.
This was a quick test, switching back and forth a few times, with only a couple of albums (solo piano and acoustic guitar). I did not adjust output voltage yet.
With the preamp engaged the music was perhaps more full bodied, but something was rounded off. Without the preamp, the music was very dynamic and engaging. It sounded slightly that much more real.
I’ll live with the preamp bypass for a while and see how it goes. It may not be ideal for all music (I listen to a lot of space/ambient/electronic music too). Like @slange00 my integrated has features I don’t use - I use the straight feature which bypasses tone controls and other settings - and the Bartok is my only source.
Back to the original topic of this thread, I may add the Rossini clock someday, but I’m in no rush. And I use the Bartok headphone amp, therefore plan to keep it as the source.
My dag pre sold , allowed me to utilize the dCS upgrade program and put in an order for the Rossini in exchange for my Bartok . Should be here in 3-4 weeks
Will use an HPA4 (thanks @Ermos for the pointers) as HA until dCS comes out with a HA solution that isn’t tied to the Bartok